Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard: How may I serve you?
Whenever Henefer Mayor Randy Ovard answers his phone he says, "How may I serve you?"
When he took office, one of the first things he did was insist that the other city employees do the same.
"What happens in government is people begin to think they are the boss and the citizens are the slaves," Ovard said. "So I said to the council and to the clerk, when someone calls me and it has anything to do with this city, my comment is always, ‘how may I serve you?
"That tells them that they are the boss and I am the servant," he said. "I am a servant of 800 people. Only thing is, you don’t see the towel over my arm."
That’s the philosophy Ovard said he has operated under during his 8-year tenure as a public servant to the residents of Henefer.
"He is always thinking and trying to do what’s best for the community and treat people fairly," City Council member Kay Richins said. "I think he tries to simplify government and make the process for the citizens simpler."
It hasn’t been easy in a community of Henefer’s size, though, and if it was up to him, Ovard said he wouldn’t have become mayor in the first place because he never actually ran for office.
"I woke up the morning after the election and the county called me on the phone and said, ‘a group of citizens had gone around door-to-door, passing out fliers, and you were elected by a majority of 3-to-1 over the incumbent’," he said. "I didn’t even run.
"In fact, I voted for the incumbent," he quipped. "I mean I was just dumbfounded and shocked. And had it had been close, I wouldn’t have accepted."
But he did accept the offer in 2005 and even won another term unopposed in 2009, despite all of his efforts to recruit a successor.
"I must have talked to about 50 people about running and could not get anyone to do it," Ovard said. "Being a mayor of a community this size is a difficult task because every decision you make, you know every person involved."
It’s not exactly a lucrative position. As mayor of Henefer, Ovard makes $575 a month and is on call 24-hours a day.
Ovard, who was a business owner and still owns properties around Summit County, officially retired two years ago and said his position took time away from his other commitments.
Now, his full-time job is running the city and trying to find the money to do so.
The city of Henefer operates on an annual budget of approximately $145,000 with the help of 26 employees.
Incorporated since 1936, the city is responsible for the water, sewer, roads and general upkeep of the community.
On that budget, however, Ovard said it’s difficult. So he has taken it upon himself to seek out other sources of revenue.
"We try and do it all and it’s next to impossible, but we do it and we’ve operated in the black for the past nine years," he said. "We’ll go without rather than spend."
Instead of raising taxes, the city seeks out grants, which are responsible for many of the cities amenities, he explained.
City Council member and former Henefer mayor Richard Butler said Ovard has "definitely made an effort to try and improve the community" during his time in office.
When the county’s portable stage wouldn’t suffice, Ovard said he looked as "far and wide" as he could to come up with a grant that enabled the city to build a new stage.
Henefer also put a new roof its City Center, added a concession stand, restrooms, and extended the pavilion.
"We did all that and it didn’t cost the citizens anything," he said. "That’s the only way this community can get what it’s getting is to get grants. We’re at the mercy of coming up with new grants or having nothing."
Ovard sought out a grant for a new water system and said he would like to find another one to match the city’s $150,000 reserved for a new water storage tank.
Another project Ovard said he is proud of is the new Daughters of Utah’s Pioneer’s building, of which $155,000 was paid for through grants with the help of the state Legislature.
"Either I hustle a grant or we sit here with nothing," he said.
The city bought the property and has plans to build a park, while the building will house some of the community’s antique treasures.
A 99-year, $1-a-year lease was negotiated for the use of the building, which Ovard paid for out of his own pocket.
Ovard says he considers himself a progressive type of individual and prefers momentum and change.
"I hate to have things stagnant," he said. "But I love to have things moving."
He has three more years left in his fourth term and after that, he’s throwing in his virtual towel.
"I will not run again," he said while laughing. "Even if we have to close the place down, I firmly believe in term limits."
When not attending to his mayoral duties, Ovard spends two days a week working in the LDS temple in Ogden with his wife of 48 years, Rebecca.
Together the couple have seven children, 28 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
A Henefer resident his whole life, Ovard said he considers it to be one of the best kept secrets in the county.
"We love it here," he said. "At one time I had to smile when I was running for county commission and some of the citizens didn’t know where Henefer was. It’s the best community in the world and the best kept secret that few people know about."